THE world of work is changing as never before.
Job security is gone. Globalisation and automation make it more and more difficult to maintain first-world jobs that might offer a decent wage. Competition for work is relentless. Short contracts, zero-hour contracts, gig jobs, and exploitative conditions are forced on staff and will inevitably rejuvenate trade unions.
To compete in this environment, workers need an impressive skill set, but, most of all, they need proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and digital skills. According to the OECD, too many people “of working age lack the basic skills in literacy and numeracy to participate in both work and society”. Without those skills, most workers are as obsolete as ostlers.
Yesterday was International Literacy Day, and a campaign to encourage adults to strengthen these skills was launched. This is indeed God’s work. It is hard to think of how one person can have a greater influence on another’s life other than by sharing these empowering, enriching skills.
Work and income are not the only areas of life defined by these essential skills. People with literacy and numeracy difficulties are more likely to suffer poor health, to believe that they have little impact on political processes, and are less likely to trust others. Society is weakened.
It is hard to think of a programme that can have such a positive impact for such modest investment. Nobody willing to learn should be so disadvantaged in Ireland today.
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